Sunday, March 14, 2010

First Mountain Bike Ride in SEVEN YEARS

Today Jonas and I joined our friend Ronny for his birthday on a mountain bike group ride - they call them toertochten here in Belgium, organized rides with feed zones attended by usually one to two thousand riders.  This one was a semi-hilly 60km one.

I did ride the mountain bike for two times last week - both for about an hour each, but it wasnt any preparation for what i did today. I thought since i hold a pro mtb racing license, even competed in World Cup races back in the day, it would feel completely normal.  I was so wrong.

As we hit the dirt for the first time, it felt like both wheels just sunk into the ground and it took all my strength to push the bike forward, along the false flat straight line. My heart rate hadnt been that high since that Hasselt Indoor cyclo-cross race a few weeks ago.   I must admit that part of the reason why i probably felt like crap was because i had been sick for over a week now and my lungs are still filled with that gooey stuff. But i can easily blame a lot of my sinking sensation is due to the heavier big-wheeled machine.

It took me about thirty kilometers to get over that "cross bikes are so much easier to ride in the dirt" feeling, but only the feeling of additional friction.  Steering that thing was a whole other issue i had to work out.  It felt so incredibly strange to ride offroad through trees while on the "tops" so i ended up riding a lot with my hands on the bar ends. It felt like i had limited control over the steering since it's rare that i ride on the tops of my cross bike while riding in the woods.I think i was the only one doing that though.

My descending wasnt the best either.  After the first descent, Jonas gave me the niener-niener gesture since he beat me on a descent.  I definitely got better by the end after i worked a bit on descending on the tops. It also helped me to finally realize that i can mow over mostly everything with those big wheels and suspension - that is once i had the courage to push that button that activates it.   I must admit it was also a lot more comfortable to ride on the bike once i figured out just how much stronger disc brakes are than my dainty little cross model that never really stops you, only slows you down.

Climbing was also on a learning curve.  When i see mountain bikers climbing, they are always in these tiny gears so i thought that is what i was supposed to do. but every time i did that, Jonas and Ronny were gone - way up the road. I felt like a loony toon spinning like a mo' fo' but going in slow motion. Eventually i worked out the gearing a bit more towards the end.  And then there were the super steep climbs where you actually needed that tiny chainring in the front.  That surprisingly went well - really well, so that gave me hope that one day i can ride a mountain bike again without making a complete fool of myself.  Fingers crossed that "that day" comes by next Sunday, my first mountain bike race. uh-oh.

Here are a couple of photos of me in the backyard taken by Jonas last week, when i was optimistic.


Dave Shishkoff said...

Woohoo - welcome back to the world of bigger knobbies!

Coming off so much 'cross, you might want to try out a 29er MTB - the bigger wheels will prolly feel more familiar, and they roll and ride faster regardless... I've been super happy with mine, anyway, coming off nearly 10yrs of no MTB riding. Raced it the day you rode. ;)

PEANUT said...

hey dave
i would try the 29s if i had the disposable income for that. I am thinking however of a less expensive option - narrower-width tires and maybe ones with not so much tread. Oh and maybe drop bars. Oh, i guess that would put me back on a cross bike.

Anonymous said...

ha! I thought was only me who felt more at home on a 'cross bike these days.

I'm always surprised at teh lack of choice of 'narrower' tyres for MTB's especially for wet conditions.

Great photo's BTW... your own personal photographer is pretty good, no?